Source: China State Council Information Office
Editor’s note: The BRICS Seminar on Governance and Cultural Exchange Forum 2020 took place virtually on December 3 and 4. More than 150 experts, officials and artists from China, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa participated, sharing their insights into the governance of the world, the critical role of BRICS countries and how to promote cultural exchanges among the five. This is an edited excerpt of the remarks by some participants:
Du Zhanyuan, President of the China International Publishing Group
In the Moscow Declaration released at the 12th BRICS Summit in November, innovation became a keyword. BRICS has evolved from a concept to an organization and continues to develop. The members, representing emerging forces, have put forward new perspectives on major global issues and global governance reform. The BRICS mechanism itself is a product of innovation, and we should be confident that it will continue to be a source of innovation and take on a more active role in leading the world through its many current obstacles.
Therefore, first, we should promote new ideas through innovation and get rid of stereotyped thinking. Facing increasing global challenges, we must oppose unilateralism and pursue multilateralism, reject false narratives that prioritize self-interests over others’ interests and uphold the people-first concept. We must abandon the law of the jungle and follow the principle of equality and mutual respect for all. The trend of globalization has not changed, and will not change. We must actively promote its new advancement. In the global village, we should strive to build a community with a shared future for humanity.
Second, we should open new areas with innovation and avoid zero-sum game. While the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted normal life and production, it has provided opportunities for extensive development and application of digital technologies such as telemedicine, online education and collaborative office. We should not fall into the trap of zero-sum game by only focusing on competition in existing fields and ignoring the broader areas in which mutual benefit and win-win results are achievable.
Third, we should explore new mechanisms through innovation and avoid the linear path. The pandemic has caused serious disorder and made people more deeply aware of the necessity and urgency of improving the global governance system and international coordination mechanisms. It is imperative to include more participants in global governance and enrich its forms, consolidate the foundation for multilateral cooperation, establish an effective mechanism to cope with global risks, and ensure that the voice of developing countries is heard.
Fourth, we should cultivate new momentum with innovation and promote economic recovery. Innovation is an important driving force for economic growth and sustainable development. Since the beginning of this year, many international organizations have predicted that in 2020, the world economy might shrink by more than 4 percent, and BRICS countries will also experience the first negative economic growth since the concept was initiated. However, the pandemic is also prompting companies to transform business models and phase out outdated production capacity, and encourage individuals to learn new skills and open new careers, thereby accumulating new momentum for economic recovery.
Victoria Panova, head of the Expert Council for the Preparation and Conduct of the Russian Chairmanship in the BRICS Association, Deputy Director of the Far Eastern Federal University, Russia
BRICS countries first started cooperation in the economy, but today their cooperation covers all areas. Their economic development is also advancing by leaps. Although some will experience a negative GDP growth this year due to COVID-19, their economic data is relatively optimistic compared with other countries worldwide. China has demonstrated economic resilience. Its GDP is expected to grow at about 2 percent in 2020. Other BRICS countries are likely to return to positive growth later. The interaction of these countries plays an important role in this regard.
We have launched the New Development Bank (NDB), which responded quickly to the pandemic by allocating more than $10 billion in supporting containment efforts in member countries. COVID-19 exposes our existing problems, but it is not the root cause. Without COVID-19, our problems would remain unseen and not have developed at accelerated pace.
Among BRICS countries, each country has its own powerful knowledge, long history, rich civilization and valuable experience. Therefore, our mutual learning could be a new impetus in the reform of the world order, and promote our development as developing countries.
Richard Levin, Special Master of Labor Tenants, Land Claims Court of South Africa
Multilateral institutions and national states and governments have been challenged by the posture of the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump pre- and post-COVID-19.
Withdrawal of U.S. funding from the World Health Organization has created tension within the global governance system, more so as the U.S. struggles to contain the spread and impact of COVID-19 domestically.
The objective conditions of global governance are undergoing a transformation. While President-elect Joe Biden has committed to return a level of dignity in terms of U.S. participation in global governance, COVID-19 has changed the world and multilateral interventions for the coming months and years. Cooperation will be critical to securing a sustainable, secure and prosperous future.
Globally and in Africa, the cry for new creativity in the development of multilateral relationships and partnerships across boundaries and sectors creates space for greater innovation and participation by the people in their interests. The focus must be on combating poverty, social inequality and unemployment through an innovative global social compact, which at minimum must prioritize social protection for the poor, free basic universal healthcare, and free primary and secondary education for all.
Ash Narain Roy, Director of the Institute of Social Sciences, India
The message from BRICS to the West is loud and clear: Reform your institutions and economies or they will do things themselves. For more than 300 years, the West made the rules and the rest of the world only played by those rules. That age has now run well past its expiration date.
BRICS must be viewed as a network of countries, not fixed alliances, or a community of nations. This network will keep the grouping flexible as a coalition of the willing. In seeking to create an inclusive, representative and transparent global governance structure, BRICS has rejected those who pretended to be both rule maker and rule keeper. It must become a bridge, not a wall.
This seminar is a good moment to reflect on where we stand and where we are heading. BRICS must protect the most vulnerable. It must heed Mahatma Gandhi’s advice: “Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him.”
BRICS must reach a consensus on what kind of engagement it needs to promote in key emerging areas such as green transition, digital transformation and sustainable growth.
Celso Amorim, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil
In today’s world, we increasingly need a platform for multilateral dialogue, particularly for developing countries and emerging economies, to make their voice heard. In such a multipolar world, the BRICS mechanism is of great strategic significance. Now that the world lies in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to develop new international orders, which should not be a repetition of the old ones and should base themselves on multilateralism. I believe BRICS countries will play a critical role in the shaping of new orders.
Among BRICS countries, political and economic cooperation is especially important, one example of which is the NDB. Meanwhile, people-to-people exchanges are also significant, and cultural exchanges are basic. When we talk about cultural exchanges, it is not only about our history, our culture and our traditions, but also about the youth of BRICS countries. We hope that there will be more conferences on important issues such as health, security, environment and climate change for more young people to participate in.
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